I love Wesleyan. I love it so much—even as I acknowledge that it is quite flawed. I, like most of the campus, have been shocked, angry, and overwhelmed by the events that have unfolded since the night of Saturday, February 21st. In the wake of these events, I’ve also been dismayed and depressed by most of the conversations our community has had about them.
On Yik Yak, the ACB, and Facebook, people—members of our community—have had vitriolic exchange after vitriolic exchange. In all of these incidents, one theme has prevailed: the idea of one morally superior, progressive, and utterly correct ideology. I pass no judgment on those who want to legalize some, or even all, drugs—I sometimes find myself in that boat. I have no fundamental quarrel with people reacting to protect their friends, or the culture they cherish. I do have a problem with strings of Facebook comments where those who suggest an alternative view, who disagree with what may be crudely characterized as the ‘pro-drug, anti-establishment, anti-police, drug safety instead of drug enforcement’ side, are brutally attacked. It’s one thing to voice an opinion, or to have a productive conversation—but that hasn’t always happened. Instead, those few are told to “PLEASE TRANSFER” (an actual quote from a WesAdmits 2016 comment thread).
As abhorrent as comments like these are, the greater evil is the idea that one group of people with one opinion is allowed to define the Wesleyan community. Regardless of your opinions, regardless of your friends, your dorm, your sub-community, we are all part of a wonderfully multi-dimensional Wesleyan. Being part of the Wesleyan community, I would hope, inherently means that you will disagree with other students—sometimes vehemently. All we can ask for, as a diverse and intelligent campus, is that those who disagree with us will treat us with civility, will engage in dialogue with us instead of lobbing insults, and will allow that dissenting views are part of any interesting, valuable group. I would never want to go to a Wesleyan where everyone agreed with me. Then it wouldn’t be the varied, intellectually stimulating, formative experience it has been for me.
But, as is the point, this isn’t about me—nor is it about any one person on campus. The responsibilities we all have to the Wesleyan community are about being part of a group of interesting, interested, provocative, and critical people that has existed for nearly two centuries and will, we hope, live on for centuries more. We owe it to ourselves and to our community, which spans ideology and time, to have serious and respectful conversations with each other.
Regardless of your beliefs in the wake of the hospitalizations and arrests, we must admit that we have a drug problem. Maybe it’s that Wesleyan students take too many illegal drugs. Maybe it’s that the police are overzealous in enforcing inane laws. Maybe it’s that certain administrators and certain institutional practices are out of touch—and maybe it’s because the administration has an institutional reputation and legal standing to protect. Either way, we owe it to Wesleyan students, past, current, and future, to be aggressively introspective. Let’s talk about what it means to be part of a Wesleyan community, what we want that community to look like, and how we want our school to be run. Let’s not insult those who disagree with us. Let’s not blindly fire accusations at those in authority—rather, let’s discuss what is their fault, why they’ve done things we may disagree with, and whether they deserve the motives we assign to them. Moreover, lets discuss specific problems with specific administrators, specific offices, and specific policies—instead of lazily criticizing every authority figure on campus at once.
I love Wesleyan. I look forward to my 50th reunion. I want to hang out with you guys and putter up Foss on a dinky little motor scooter or something. When I do that, when I look out at whatever the heck is the student center then, I want to be able to reminisce about that time when we experienced a tragedy and we, the Wesleyan community, only grew closer. I want to look back on us treating each other with respect and dignity, arguing with class and passion, and being truly critical and introspective—about absolutely everything. It will be a shame if we can’t all do that.